Cloud Atlas – the movie

So for our “Book Made into a Movie” category, once we finish the book, we watch the movie and compare/contrast. For once (probably in my entire life), I think I liked the movie better. For the post about the book review, it is here.

Major Differences in the Movie:

Instead of going through the stories 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, the movie juxtaposes smaller sections of each story together. In general, I liked this better, however at some times I felt like the sections were too short and it was a bit confusing.

In story 1, (part 2), Adam is reconnected with his wife, Tilda. He and Tilda go against her father’s wishes to move to the east coast to help the abolitionists.

In story 2, with Robert Frobisher, Eva, Vyvyan and Jocasta’s daughter does not exist. Robert misguidedly comes on to Vyvyan who laughs and rejects him. Robert decides to leave with Cloud Atlas, and Vyvyan informs him that his reputation will be ruined. Robert points a gun at Vyvyan and tells him that he is leaving. Vyvyan tells Robert to shoot him, and says something along the lines of “your type never does”. Robert does and then escapes to finish Cloud Atlas. I found this made the suicide a bit more realistic or understandable. The police were hunting him for shooting (although not killing) Vyvyan. His reputation was ruined. Also story 2 now occurs in Scotland. No real reason why.

In story 6, Zachry was a grown man, not a teenager like in the book. The movie created a love story between him and Meronym ending when the two leave Hawaii to live on another planet with lots of children and grandchildren.

Artistic Liberties Taken by the Movie:

This is where I found the movie to be quite interesting. The movie definitely created a more cohesive story than the book. The comet birthmarks were really obvious. In the book, I missed about half of them because it seemed such an afterthought. Only a handful of actors, despite the quantity of characters in the book, signed onto this film, and after seeing it, I understand why. In the film, most actors played 5+ characters. This to me also suggested something that was merely alluded to in the book–reincarnation.

However, it was a bit unclear to me in both the book and the movie, how these roles were supposed to fit together. In the book, it is suggested that “all of the main characters” are reincarnations of each other. That would mean that Adam Ewing, Robert Frobisher, Luisa Rey, Timothy Cavendish, Somni, and Meronym are all reincarnations of each other. However, Timothy Cavendish would have likely been born before Luisa Rey, so that doesn’t really work out. (Luisa’s story is set in 1975 and Timothy Cavendish is 65 years old in 2004. You do the math on that one.)

In the movie, it’s basically the same, however, the same actor does not play all of those roles. So the reincarnation aspect that I liked about using one actor for multiple roles seems to make less of an effect. We discussed in our meeting whether there was any relation between which actors were “good” characters and which were “bad” ones. There seemed to be some connection here. The actor who played Agent Smith in The Matrix (I don’t know his name. He will always be Agent Smith to me) was always a bad character (obviously. If he played a good character, I for one would never buy it). Halle Berry was always a good (Luisa & Meronym) or neutral (Jocasta) character. Tom Hanks though, was all over the board. He played bad, good, and in between. For good characters, he played Zachry and Isaac Sachs. For bad characters, he played Henry Goose and Dermot Hoggins (the thug in the Cavendish section who throws the critic off the roof). Looking on IMDb to determine who played who, the tag of the movie says “An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.” If that one soul is Henry’s and Zachry’s, why doesn’t Henry have the comet birthmark?

Adding the reuniting with Tilda created a bit more of a point to Adam’s story. He rejects helping Tilda’s father with slavery and instead moves with Tilda to the east coast to join the abolitionist movement. The characters of Adam and Tilda are also the same as the characters of Somni and Hae-Joo. I think this tries to take the film to a more romantic level, suggesting perhaps that love will overcome?


I liked the movie better than the book. But I would probably still only give the movie 3-3.5 stars. I feel like without the background of having read the book, watching the movie would have been just as hard to follow as the book was. There were still too many discrepancies.  The movie tied everything together a bit better, but there was still no logical path of reincarnation. There was no suggestion of how we got from the Timothy Cavendish story to the Somni story, or why Somni was a goddess of a small tribe of Hawaiians many years in the future. There was still no reason given as to what caused “The Fall”. And therefore, there was still no cohesive point to all the stories.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s